You’ve probably heard of a Brazilian Butt Lift, or a BBL, the plastic surgery procedure where fat is removed from your stomach and then injected into your buttocks, providing your backside with a very full, round, and lifted look. It’s essentially a butt implant, but instead of a foreign substance or insert, you are using your own fat from a part of your body where you might not want it.
While BBLs have been around for decades, it is certainly seeing a major surge in popularity and even more than that, a major jump in patients who are traveling overseas for the procedure. On the surface, this fad might not seem like a cause for concern, but experts warn there are many risks, both in terms of the procedure itself and also regarding traveling immediately after surgery.
It’s unclear exactly why Brazilian Butt Lifts, which have been around for years, are suddenly seeing such a surge in popularity. Perhaps it has to do with certain pop culture icons (*cough* J Lo, Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj *cough*) who have made big butts all the rage. Or maybe women are just willing to go to greater lengths for a round, perky, lifted, and large butt.
Regardless of what has caused BBLs to rise to fame, they are more popular than ever. According to a recent survey by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the number of butt lifts performed globally has grown by 77.6% since 2015.
With the rising demand, many people travel far and wide to have more affordable access to this procedure. But naturally, if you travel to receive a medical procedure, you must also come back home, and flying immediately after surgery can have serious repercussions that make medical experts very concerned.
What Exactly is a Brazilian Butt Lift?
You can credit the initial Brazilian Butt Lift to a plastic surgeon from, obviously, Brazil, named Ivo Pitanguy, who published a paper back in 1964 on buttock lift surgery. Despite his paper documenting a procedure designed to enhance the butt, it could not add shape or fullness, only remove unwanted skin to correct sagging.
Years later, in 1973, Cocke and Ricketson documented the first cosmetic buttock augmentation. The butt lift was further developed over the next few decades, thanks to the rise of liposuction in the 1980s and 1990s, a procedure that involves removing fat from areas of the body where you do not want those extra fat deposits.
In response to the rising popularity of liposuction, plastic surgeons began investigating if they could re-insert those fat cells into other areas of the body where you do want that fullness and lift. The result is a procedure known as the Brazilian Butt Lift.
During a BBL, a plastic surgeon removes fat from parts of your body where the fat is not wanted (stomach, thighs, even your back) through liposuction. Then that fat is purified and re-injected into the buttocks, giving the patient a curvier figure and a fuller butt. It is essentially a fat transfer procedure that involves small incisions, so there is minimal scarring and natural-looking results.
Measures are taken to minimize bleeding, and there is a relatively low risk of infection when the procedure is performed by an experienced medical professional and reputable plastic surgeon. That said, there are risks, as with any medical procedure, and when you add in the complications that can arise from traveling out of the country for plastic surgery, the risks are amplified and can be quite serious.
Safety Hazards and Risks of Brazilian Butt Lifts
It’s no secret that all surgery, elective or otherwise, comes with inherent risks. But reports indicate that a Brazilian Butt Lift is the most dangerous plastic surgery, with a fatality rate of 1 in 3,000. Fatality typically arises when the procedure is performed incorrectly, in which case the fat injected into the butt can enter the large veins in that area of the body and then travel to the lungs, leading to respiratory distress and death.
The BBL is more common than you might realize. A 2017 paper published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal found that 3% of the 692 surgeons he had surveyed had experienced the death of a patient after performing the surgery, and the fact that one in 3,000 BBLs resulted in death made it the world’s most dangerous cosmetic procedure.
According to NBC 6 investigators, approximately 15 women died of fat embolisms resulting from BBLs in South Florida alone over the last several years.
Furthermore, those risks exist in any country or any scenario where a BBL is being performed. But the risk is even higher when you add the additional risk of traveling for the procedure and then traveling back home after the surgery.
Is It Safe to Travel After a BBL?
Absolutely not, experts agree. Traveling after any surgery is risky, but after a BBL, it’s especially risky because that requires sitting for extended periods on the part of your body that is newly healing.
According to a Newsweek piece, patients who receive a BBL are required not to sit directly on their butts for at least three weeks after the surgery. Instead, they are only supposed to sit on a specialized BBL pillow, which supports their thighs but protects their butt while seated. Patients must also wear a tight compression garment after the surgery to minimize swelling and bleeding, both of which could become problematic while traveling.
What is extremely concerning is despite these facts and the known risks of travel post-surgery, a recent viral video showed nearly 30 women in wheelchairs at an airport all traveling home after Brazilian Butt Lift surgeries in the Dominican Republic.
According to Dr. Thomas Pane, a dual board-certified plastic surgeon practicing in Palm Beach Gardens, “ideally, we recommend postponing travel for as many days post-surgery as possible, regardless of the type of procedure or how you’re traveling, to expedite your surgery recovery and minimize the risk of complications.”
That said, if you do need to travel post-BBL surgery, he recommends not placing direct pressure on the buttocks and using a specialized BBL pillow. He also notes that the risks depend heavily on the length of travel — a shorter flight might not be a problem, but sitting for an extended time post-op is a bad idea because of the risk of blood clots forming.
Bottom line: having a full, lifted, perky butt might seem important, and an oversized backside is certainly all the rage these days, but consider the risks, do your research, and definitely do not get your butt pumped full of fat, and then hop on a flight home if at all possible — the risks are not worth the rewards. No ifs, ands, or butts.